The world is a big, beautiful, exciting place, awash with colour and variety and life. It’s a mixture of the new and the ancient, land, ocean and air, where cultures mix and inspiration leads to innovation.
For those interested in general aviation, the skies are a reflection of the world beneath them. The aircraft that soar amongst the clouds are infused with the qualities and characteristics of their homelands. That certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ that that makes all the difference and simply makes a plane feel special.
Pilots in Australia and New Zealand are fortunate to have access to plenty of aircraft manufactured in dozens of countries, and distributed by local dealers. Each plane brings with it the history and culture of its homeland, with features and quirks that tell the intricate story of where it came from.
From the glorious beaches of Brazil, to the endless plains of America, to the imposing Swiss Alps, high-level general aviation down under is a multicultural tapestry that has something for everyone.
We’ll take a look at some of the best aircraft from around the world that are available right here in Australia. They’re all wonderful planes, and are perfectly suited to getting out there and seeing what this planet has to offer.
In other words, no planes from Bangladesh or the Federated States of Micronesia, because they’d probably be made out of Paddle Pop sticks and Blu-Tack. Sorry about that.
So pop a beret on your head, grab an authentic Roman pizza and slip into your favourite feathered Mardi Gras outfit, as we explore the wide world of wings!
When you think of Brazil, you think of sun, surf and beautiful women. Kids playing soccer on the beach, samba dancing, and that giant statue of Jesus up on that mountain. It’s a bright, loud, colourful nation that dazzles and charms millions of visitors every year.
Brazil’s also home to Embraer, the third-largest aeroplane maker after Airbus and Boeing. They make are vast range of commercial, military, executive and agricultural aircraft that are more exciting than a night at the Mardis Gras and faster than Ayrton Senna ever was.
While their range of general aviation aircraft are exquisitely put together and on the cutting edge of technology, they also offer the flair and fun that Brazil is known for.
These planes are luxurious dream machines that are a joy to take control of and provide a wonderful experience for passengers.
Embraer offers a range smaller aircraft, such as the American-designed Sêneca, Tupi and Seranejo lines, all of which come with more punch than a jiu jitsu star and are an absolute riot to cruise around in. The South Americans have added their own style to each, to give a more authentic experience.
If the next Olympics – which, by sheer coincidence, are to be held in Rio de Janeiro – had an event for general aircraft, the beefier Legacy 650 corporate jet would surely take home the gold medal. With a range of 7,223km, it could cross the Amazon without worry.
It has a top speed of 834 km/h and can reach an incredible 41,000ft, which is more impressive than a Ronaldo bicycle kick – and at a cost of around $30 million, you’d have to be a soccer superstar to afford one!
Brazil has a proud history in aviation, and when this expertise is combined with the colour and flair for which the country is know, you end up with some truly special aircraft.
The Swiss like to do things their own way, which is why they’re not currently handing over bucketloads of cash to other countries as part of the United Nations. This desire to tread new paths is also why their chocolate is so good.
When it come to Roger Federer, though, he’s probably so good at tennis because he trains a lot.
The Swiss are also known for their neutrality, but there’s nothing neutral or boring about their planes. It goes without saying that they’re well made, but they also possess an elegance that sets them apart from aircraft from other countries.
Standing high over the Swiss countryside is the imposing Mount Pilatus, a favourite of snowboarders and the inspiration behind Swiss aeronautical company Pilatus.
The PC-12 is a single-engine turboprop machine that’s been around since 1991, with more than 1300 sold over the years. Like a Swiss watch, they keep on ticking, so most of those are still in the air.
With a top speed of 500km/h and a versatile disposition, it’s a favourite of enthusiasts the world over, and is also used by a fair number of airlines for shorter runs.
The PC-12 is no stranger to Aussie skies, with the Royal Flying Doctors using them to help sick people who can’t get to a hospital. And if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for anyone.
There’s something special on the horizon from the Swiss maestros, with the PC-24 currently under development and set to launch in 2017. It can carry 10 passengers, reach speeds of 787km/h and has a range of 3,610km. It’s being put together for fans of the PC-12, who wanted greater range, while retaining the ability to use very short runways. It will be available through Pilatus Australia.
With so many mountains, Switzerland is a playground for the adventurous, and Pilatus planes are just the thing to satiate those desires. After all, flying one is much more sensible than zooming down a cliff on a plank of wood and crashing into a tree.
Flying into Austria is like descending into a storybook. There are rolling green hills, sparkling rivers, picture-perfect castles, and cities that seem older than time itself. It’s a magical land that inspires big dreams.
It’s an ancient land that has been involved in some of the most important events in human history, while maintaining its own strong and distinct personality.
Alright, alright, forget about Hitler. One bad egg shouldn’t smear the reputation of a whole country. After all, Albert Einstein lived there, and he was a great bloke.
Long story short, the Austrians are a smart and motivated bunch, so they get things done. For instance, the clever chaps at Diamond have come up with two of the best aircraft you’ll ever fly, in the DA40 and the DA42. Both are available in Australia through Hawker Pacific.
The DA40 is a four-seat low-wing cantilever monoplane made from composite materials, and made its first appearance back in 1997. Since then it’s built a legendary reputation for reliability and grace, being so easy to fly that it’s a hit with flying schools.
It also has an incredibly low accident record, especially with regard to stall and spin accidents, meaning it’s just about the safest aircraft you can take into the sky. And, as we all know, there’s nothing cooler than being safe!
The DA40 comes with twin engines, and first showed up in 2004. Like the DA40, it’s incredibly reliable, easy to fly, and plenty of fun. It comes with a bit more grunt, being able to hit 356km/h, with a range of 1,693 km.
It’s one of the most technologically advanced twins on the market, and presents the latest in airframe design, avionics capability and new engine technology. It’s the perfect craft for those long, meandering flights through Austria. And when you finally land on an emerald field underneath the Alps, you can grab a Wiener Schnitzel and a stein of Stiegl, sit back under a tree and listen to the dulcet tones of the locals yodelling at each other. What could possibly be better than that?
There’s more to Italy than Joe Dolce’s popular 1980s song Shaddup Ya Face. It’s a land with thousands of years of history, from the ancient Romans stabbing each other at the Coliseum, to the reign of a very naughty boy named Benito Mussolini, to George Clooney’s recent marriage in Venice.
Just walking around Rome – or driving through the streets in a bright red Ferrari 458 Spider, if you feel like showing off – is like stepping back in time. The Roman Forum and the Trevi Fountain, amongst countless other sites, cast the mind back to some of the most important eras in human evolution.
It’s also a country where style reigns supreme, so leave your Stubbies and Bintang singlet at home if you’re thinking of heading to Milan fashion week. Italy’s all about Gucci and Prada, where being fashionable is as part of everyday life as spaghetti marinara.
The emphasis on fashion and beauty extends to their planes, with Tecnam’s range of general aviation aircraft proving to be some of the prettiest and most graceful on the planet. The range is available through Tecnam Australia and New Zealand.
The P2006 is a high-winged, twin-engined all-metal aircraft that’s light and manoeuvrable enough that it’s an absolute blast to fly around in. The designers have emphasised comfort, meaning the P2006 is perfect for longer flights, and passengers are in for a truly sumptuous experience. It’s the perfect ride if you just want to pop down to Naples for an afternoon of drinking Peroni in the sun, and still have time to be back in Turin for a pizza and garlic bread before heading to bed.
With the ability to carry 11 passengers, the P2012 Traveller is the largest aeroplane Tecnam has ever made, and it’s a really nice bit of kit. “The P2012 Traveller builds on our commitment to continue to develop outstanding, stylish, innovative and affordable aeroplanes,” explains Tecnam Managing Director Paolo Pascale. “For the Tecnam team, designing and building aeroplanes isn’t just a job, it’s an extension of our passion for flying.”
Roll out is scheduled for the beginning of 2016 and maiden flight six months later. In the meantime, the Capua factory is bolting two Lycoming engines onto the P2012 Traveller’s wings. These will be 350 HP, turbocharged, six-cylinder, direct-drive, horizontally opposed, air-cooled and either avgas or mogas fed. As well as allowing for next generation engines with alternate fuels approved.
To translate that into Australian, the P2012 is bloody grouse!
The French are a law unto themselves – utterly unique. They wear berets all the time, ride bicycles with bread sticks and croissants sitting in the basket on the front. That’s not an outdated stereotype, either, it’s the truth.
If you don’t believe us, just head over there, because France is definitely worth a holiday. You can take a cruise along the Seine in Paris, drink wine on the Riviera, or visit the legendary battlefields of Villers-Bretonneux, where more than 1000 Australians lost their lives in the First World War.
You can roll through the countryside, visiting villages with thousands of years of history, taking your time to soak in the atmosphere. Nothing moves fast in the French countryside, so grab a coffee and watch the world slide past.
The French have a reputation for being born with an inherent sense of class, refinement and good taste. This is nowhere more apparent when it comes to the planes of DAHER-SOCATA (the capitals are for DRAMATIC EFFECT).
The TBM 850 is a high performance turboprop with a powerful Pratt & Whitney PT6A-66D engine, that’s as fun and quirky as a French street mime. Thankfully, it’s a bit faster, a lot better-looking, and far less likely to be punched by a drunken English tourist.
It’s been around in various forms since 1988, but it’s been improved time and time again to provide a sublime flying experience. With the French, it’s not all about stats; it’s about giving providing the pilot with a truly memorable flight, every time. It’s impossible not to fall in love with the 850, it’s just that special.
An improved version, known as the TBM 900, was introduced last year and comes with a whole heap of improvements, including winglets, a redesigned air intake and a five-blade propeller, for better aerodynamic and performance. It’s a fantastic upgrade for an already amazing plane, and well worth looking out for through a local Aussie dealer.
The French are known for their passion, and their aircraft are easy to fall in love. C’est l’amour!
And how about the manufacturers themselves, who have been modestly hiding their true talents and fine vintage? Ever since it was founded in 1863 as a shipping company, Daher has now established itself as one of the major players of the third industrial revolution. Daher is an equipment supplier developing Integrated Industrial Systems for aerospace and advanced technologies. They specialize in five fields of activity: aircraft manufacturer, aerostructures and systems, integrated logistics, nuclear services, and valves. Daher posts a heathy turnover of nearly a billion euros, and its order book stands at around three and a half years of turnover.
Daher traces its origins to the pioneering Morane-Saulnier aviation company. Morane-Saulnier and SOCATA gave birth to a plethora of firsts in the history of aviation, such as the first Mediterranean air-crossing by Roland Garros in 1913, and the MS 760 Paris, the first business jet in 1954. The TBM 700 became the first pressurized single-engine turboprop to be certified in 1990 which directly paved the way for today’s Daher TBM 900. Daher lays claim to a lofty accolade – it’s the world’s oldest aircraft manufacturer in operation today.
We all love a sunburnt country, a land of sweeping plains, of ragged mountain ranges, of droughts and flooding rains. In short, Australia is bloody bewdiful and every little bit of it is worth exploring.
We’ve got the world’s best beaches, the most delicious beer (no, not VB), the most talented sportspeople, the best bands (we’re talking about Cold Chisel, not those rap idiots who have been popping up lately) and the most glorious women God has given life to. No wonder people are climbing into boats the size of bathtubs to try to get here – you’d be mad not to.
Being at the end of the world means that Aussies are an inventive bunch, having to come up with unique solutions to our special circumstances. The stump jump plough, the bionic ear and the winged keel were all thought up by dinky-di dudes, and they’re all brilliant.
It’s also a tough land, with endless deserts, dense forests, wild storms and places like Mount Druitt, where the locals will pinch your shoelaces if you don’t walk fast enough. Because of that, tough planes are necessary to survive the conditions.
GippsAero have being doing Australia proud since forming in 1977. Based out of Latrobe Valley Airport in Morwell, Victoria, they’ve earned a reputation for building rugged, reliable aircraft that are perfectly suited to the Aussie conditions. The company was bought out by Indian super-corporation Mahindra a few years ago but the manufacturing has remained right here in Oz.
The GA8 Airvan, available directly through Mahindra GippsAero, is a single-engined utility aircraft, able to seat from four to 14 people, meaning it’s versatile and can be used for a number of endeavours. It’s solid and well made, while being plenty of fun to fling around our wide open spaces.
In 2010, the Airvan became the first Aussie designed and manufactured aircraft to fly around the world. Local pilots Ken Evers and Tim Pryse returned to Melbourne 62 days later, having flown 27,675 nautical miles and raised millions for charity. If it can do that, this plane will never give you a problem.
So, along with all the other stuff we’re really good, you can add that Australians also makes the best planes.
The Canucks are the nicest people on the planet. Seriously, you can’t walk down the main street of Vancouver without having a bearded chap in a hockey jersey invite you inside for a big, warm glass of maple syrup.
They’re also an adventurous bunch, so it’s no surprise that they’ve come up with a plane that’s both easy to fly, and has room for plenty of friends – the Viking Twin Otter. We’re not sure what city it was actually designed in, but we assume it was Otter-wa. What, no laughs? But that was hilarious!
The Twin Otter has room for 19 passengers, meaning it’s large enough that airlines around the world have it as part of their fleets. It’s powerful and easy control, with an easy temperament befitting its Canadian roots. From front to back, it’s a quality rig that has been pleasing pilots for half a century and can now be found with local Australasian distributor support.
The Twin Otter recently celebrated its 50th birthday, with a fleet traveling the length of Canada as part of a two-and-a-half-week party. This aircraft is an important part of the country’s history, with its rugged build making air travel to some of Canada’s most remote points possible.
It’s a big plane and you probably won’t be able to fit it in your garage (even if you push the lawnmower right to the back), but it is a quality machine. After all, it’s made by the Canadians, and they’re the nicest people in the world, so why would they want to disappoint you?
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
America is a big country, and there are only two ways to explore it; in a Caddy with the roof down and a pretty girl in the passenger seat, blasting along Route 66 with Creedence playing on the stereo, or in a really, really nice plane. Preferably with the same pretty girl by your side.
There’s so much to see, from the jaw-dropping skyscrapers of Manhattan to the bayous of New Orleans, and the awe-inspiring national parks of California. There are beaches to swim in Florida, slopes to slide in Colorado, and steaks as big as your head to chew in Texas. Just make sure you’ve got good travel insurance.
You could spend years exploring and barely scratch the surface. And, while driving around America is brilliant, the locals can get a bit shooty, so it might be best to stick to the air when possible.
America is the land of the free and the home of the brave, and those who want complete freedom choose to fly Beechcraft planes, because they’re bloody good. The King Air is an iconic aircraft that’s so good it’s outsold all of its turboprop competitors combined. King by name and king by nature, it was introduced in 1964 to much fanfare, and has regularly been updated and improved since then. These days the tech is state-of-the art.
The King Air is so brilliant that President Lyndon Johnson acquired one off the shelf to be used as his personal aircraft. If it’s good enough for a president, you know it’s the real deal.
The Beechcraft Baron is a more cost-effective option at a little over $1 million, but still provides an unreal experience. In fact, it’s used by air forces around the world, so it’s good at avoiding all those bullets that American are so intent on firing. Both planes are available through Hawker Pacific.
The Sunshine State has plenty of great things to see, including sparkling beaches, the bright lights of Miami and the delights of Key West, but it’s also a dangerous place. There are swamps full of evil alligators, crazed drug dealers and far too many cannibalistic homeless people. For these reasons, you need a reliable plane, and Piper’s range fit the bill nicely.
It’s a special company with a wonderful heritage of producing exception planes. Every aircraft they offer is a work of art, but of particular note are their M-class series of jets, which are exceptional.
If you’re on a budget, you can start with the wallet-friendly Matrix, at a little more than $1million. For seven figures, you’ll get the largest cabin volume in its class, a 350 HP dual turbocharged engine, and a sense of style and elegance inside and out. And that’s the bottom of the range!
Step up to the M350 and you’re looking at the only pressurised piston-engine aircraft available today. Max cruise speed is 395km/h and a single tank can take you an astonishing 2487km. And, of course, the flying experience is sublime.
At the top of the tree (a Floridian southern red cedar, naturally) is the $3million M600, and it’s as gorgeous as the Everglades. Piper’s most innovative aircraft to date features advanced instruments capable of shooting it around at 482km/h, while maintaining a smooth and enjoyable ride. This is a true dream machine, complete with Garmin G3000 avionics suite with autopilot and synthetic vision, and too many other features to list here.
The cabin features the most comfortable and luxurious interior you could ever hope to experience, meaning this is the complete package and all you could ever hope for in a jet.
Florida might be right down the bottom of America, but the state’s planes are at the top of any list!
MINNESOTA via China
Bordering Canada and Lake Superior, Minnesota is one those scenic mid-Western states and home to Cirrus. There was a bit of a kerfuffle a few years back when Cirrus decided to move their production from the mid-West to China: quality was going to suffer, jobs were going to be lost, the sky was falling in etc, etc. The usual rigmarole. All of which seems a little peculiar when considering the world’s biggest corporations have been taking advantage of the state of the art production lines and manufacturing equipment behind the Great Wall for more than a decade now. In fact quality control seems even higher since the transition with the forthcoming Cirrus Vision personal jet looking as sharp as a razor. Their perennial success story, the SR22 is now available with even more boom under the bonnet in the turbocharged version, the SR22T. And, of course, Cirrus haven’t forgotten about us Aussies – their Australis model is doing the business with a fine array of refinements for this harsh and unforgiving climate of ours.
The skies of America are wide and blue and begging to be flown, so what’s stopping you?
You’d need a thousand lifetimes to see everything the world has to offer, but with these aircraft you can see a lot more of it in a shorter time. And while you’re exploring this big, blue ball, you can feel the heartbeat of a nation pumping through your plane.
The heritage and history of its homeland is all part of your aircraft. The DNA of a country is what fuels the innovation and inspiration behind the world’s best planes, and is as important as the wings strapped to its side. So head into the skies and explore the world, on the United Colours of Aviation.